I first read Dolores Hitchens while preparing for a panel I moderated at Bouchercon 2014 in Long Beach, the first of my Beyond Chandler and Hammett sessions focusing on lesser-known crime writers from the middle of the twentieth century. Hitchens will be among the subject of this year's version of the panel at Bouchercon 2016 in New Orleans next month, and this pre-Long Breach post captures nicely why I like these panels so much: I get to read, experience, and come to grips with authors new to me.
friend sent along Dolores Hitchens' 1955 novel Sleep With Strangers
because of its setting in Long Beach, site of Bouchercon 2014
. Indeed, the book is even more evocative of its setting than is that other great Long Beach crime novel, Paul Cain's Fast One
Hitchens is new to me, so naturally I start out thinking of her in terms of other crime writers her work evokes, and those writers are two of the best. Hitchens' compassion for characters who lead marginal existences reminds me of David Goodis, particularly T
he Street on the Corner
[At this late date, I don't remember if I meant The Blonde on the Street Corner or The Street of No Return. The latter, I suspect.
] and Cassidy's Girl
, and her dissection of family life in California brings to mind The Big Sleep
. (Ed Gorman's discussion of Sleeps With Strangers
invokes Ross Macdonald. I've never warmed to Macdonald, but I suspect that what Gorman sees as Macdonaldish is what I see as Chandlerlike. In any case, that's another illustrious name associated with Hitchens.)
The novel's opening is an atmospheric, moody, tension-filled inversion of the usual scene in which a P.I. meets a client, and it hooked me on Hitchens right away. (The client is named Kay Wanderley. "Wonderly," of course, is the name Brigid O'Shaughnessy uses when she first calls on Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon
. Homage? Coincidence? Either way, it's more good fictional company for Dolores Hitchens.)
© Peter Rozovsky 2014, 2016
Labels: Bouchercon 2014, California, Dashiell Hammett, David Goodis, Dolores Hitchens, Ed Gorman, Long Beach, Patti Abbott, Paul Cain, Raymond Chandler, Sarah Weinman, The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon